You can eat and cook the tomato in a thousand ways and how you like it, but our recommendation is that, whenever possible, try to develop recipes that make use of the whole tomato. Several investigations show a higher content of lycopene in products with whole tomatoes.
The benefits and properties of tomato are broad: it is antioxidant, prevents cardiovascular diseases, prevents cancer, and reduces the symptoms of asthma and much more. It is one of the most cultivated and consumed vegetables around the world, but we do not fully know the reach of their healthful properties.
The tomato, whose scientific name is Solanum lycopersicon, is a vegetable (although many doubt whether it is a fruit or vegetable) belonging to the Solanaceae family. It is an annual crop plant, and it grows at ground level or even erects.
In terms of production, tomato is considered the main fruit vegetable in the world and widely consumed either as a fresh or processed product, in pasta, juice, dehydrated and a myriad of other commercial presentations.
It is estimated an annual total production of about 160 million tons, and a per capita consumption of 18 kilograms a year for Europeans and 8 kilograms for the inhabitants of the USA. Chile is ranked number 13 in this area, and is grown throughout its territory (very extensive and with different climates), with a preferential production for fresh consumption, mostly domestic, close to 300 thousand tons per year.
What’s interesting? Apart from its exquisite flavor
In health research lines, its characteristics have been deeply studied and in particular the healthy properties of one of its primordial components; the lycopene.
This is because the frequent consumption of tomatoes has been associated with a decreased risk of developing chronic degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and others). This could be due to the abundant presence of different types of antioxidant compounds, such as carotenoids and in particular of the aforementioned lycopene.
What is Lycopene?
It is neither more nor less than the lipophilic pigment that gives the red color characteristic of tomatoes and in less quantity to other fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya and damask. This pigment is very stable in tomato, but extracted and purified it tends to be quite unstable (for example its presentation in capsules).
The fresh tomato provides 90% of the lycopene necessary for the organism, since it is a micronutrient not synthesized by the human body, then it must be obtained from food.
The concentration of lycopene in tomatoes
In general, lycopene accumulates in the tomato fruits from its immature state, increasing significantly as it matures. The lycopene content may also differ depending on the variety, crop conditions and harvest factors.
Toxicity of lycopene?
The toxicity of carotenoids (including tomato lycopene) observed in some studies is mainly due to the very high doses used experimentally. In turn, those incredible high concentrations of one carotenoid interfere with the availability of another, as occurs between beta carotene and lycopene.
Benefits of tomato for health
The benefits of tomatoes for the health of people have been known to mankind since ancient times. Some of these surprising benefits are the following:
1. Prevents cancer
It has a large amount of lycopene, an antioxidant that is very effective against free radicals. This benefit can be obtained even in products made from tomato processed thermally like ketchup or purees.
Lycopene has been shown to be particularly effective in the fight against prostate cancer, cervical cancer, cancer of the stomach and rectum, as well as pharynx and esophageal cancers. It also protects against breast cancer and mouth cancer.
The two main components of tomatoes, cumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, fight against the nitrosamines that are produced in the body and that are the main carcinogens found in cigarettes.
The presence of vitamin A in such high amounts has also been shown to reduce the effects of carcinogens and can protect us from lung cancer.
2. Reduce cholesterol and protect the heart
The lycopene in tomatoes prevents the oxidation of serum lipids, so it exerts a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases.
The regular consumption of tomatoes has been shown to decrease the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
These lipids are the main responsible for cardiovascular diseases since they lead to the deposition of fats in the blood vessels.
3. Improves vision
Vitamin A, present in tomatoes, helps improve vision, and contributes to the prevention of night blindness and macular degeneration.
A lot of eye problems occur due to the negative effects of free radicals, and vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that works wonders against those free radicals.
4. Collaborate in digestive health
Tomatoes keep the digestive system healthy, avoiding constipation and diarrhea. They also prevent jaundice and help eliminate toxins from the body.
In addition, tomatoes have a large amount of fiber, which can increase stool and reduce the symptoms of constipation.
A healthy amount of fiber helps stimulate peristaltic movement in the smooth digestive muscles, and also release gastric and digestive juices.
This can regulate bowel movements, thus improving your overall digestive health and helping to prevent diseases such as colorectal cancer.
5. Prevents hypertension
Consuming a tomato daily reduces the risk of developing hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
This is partly due to the impressive potassium levels found in tomatoes.
Potassium is a vasodilator, which means that it reduces the tension in the blood vessels and arteries, thus increasing circulation and reducing heart problems.
6. Help in Diabetes
Several studies have shown that the daily consumption of tomatoes reduce the oxidative stress of type 2 diabetes, one of the most frequent forms of diabetes.
7. Healthy Skin
The daily consumption of tomato protects the skin against the erythema induced by UV rays. In addition, this food occupies the first positions on the scale of anti-aging products.
Something that may surprise you is that the topical application of tomato juice is known for its effectiveness in curing severe burns.
8. Prevents urinary tract infections
Tomato intake also reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections, as well as bladder cancer.
This is because tomatoes have a high water content, which can stimulate urination, which makes tomatoes, in some way, a perfect diuretic.
This increases and facilitates the elimination of toxins from the body, as well as excess water, salts, uric acid, and some fat too!
9. Prevents gallstones
Regular consumption of tomatoes can also provide relief in diseases of the gallbladder, such as gallstones.
10. A plentiful source of antioxidants
Tomato contains a large amount of lycopene, a very effective antioxidant which is very reactive in terms of many diseases.
11. Source of vitamins and minerals
A tomato can provide around 40% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that acts against cancer caused by free radicals. It also contains vitamin A and abundant potassium, as well as iron.
12. Counteract the effect of snuff
The two main components of tomatoes, cumárico acid and chlorogenic acid, are essential in the fight against nitrosamines that occur in the body when people do smoking.
13. Reduce asthma symptoms
Do you suffer from asthma? Or someone from your family? This disease is characterized in its genesis by a chronic difficulty to bounce the inspired air, which often triggers respiratory crisis, especially in winter or associated with environmental emergencies.
In this sense, it has been shown that the lycopene of tomatoes decreases the acute inflammation of the respiratory tract, through intensive treatments with this product, which improve to a certain extent the respiratory function.
14. Antifungal effect
What relationship will they have? Among the multiple associations that have been found, it includes the anti-fungal effects of tomato (especially lycopene), which can help promote the treatment of infections through the selective destruction of the cell membrane.
Tomato consumption can kill several species of fungi that usually, colonize humans (eg Candida albicans) and that is usually quite resistant to some conventional treatments, depending on their nature.
It is even recommended to eat them with the skin, because the content of lycopene and beta-carotene that we will ingest will be significantly higher.
The daily consumption of tomatoes helps us obtain our indispensable daily intake of vitamins and minerals and exerts a global protective effect on the body.
And as you may have seen, the benefits of tomato for health are more than evident. So what are you waiting for? Put tomato in your life! As the proportion of tomato in the diet increases, the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer decreases.